Have you ever tried growing mushrooms? It differs from standard gardening, but can also be a source of great joy. The science concerned with the study of mushrooms is called mycology, and my goal is to encourage you to practice ‘mycogardening’.
I love eating mushrooms and one of my favorite dishes is a cutlet made from the cap of the parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera). It can be very easily grown in the garden, so let’s take a look at two ingenious ways to do it!
1. With a watering can
Find some wild parasol mushrooms (it usually grows on the edge of the forest, near grassy areas). Pick the most mature mushrooms with spread caps, since that’s where the majority of spores are located.
Pour room temperature water into a bucket (either use rainwater or let it sit for at least 48 hours before you use it – otherwise chlorine will kill the spores!).
Crumble the mushroom caps and put them into the rainwater-filled bucket, making sure they’re evenly spread out (this way, you’ll set free millions of spores).
Prepare a watering can with a sieve.
Pour the contents of the bucket into the can. Make sure you use the sieve to separate the crumbled mushroom caps from the rainwater with spores.
Water your garden with it, focusing on partially-shaded areas covered with grass (it’s good if some diffused sunrays reach this place, too). Wait patiently for the mushrooms to emerge.
2. With an anthill
Find some parasol mushrooms (as described in method 1). Pick the most mature mushrooms with spread caps.
Locate an anthill of Formica rufa, commonly known as the red wood ant.
Place the mature mushrooms carefully on the anthill.
Watch from a safe distance how carefully the ants crumble the caps of the parasol mushrooms and carry the parts to the anthill.
Wait patiently for a mushroom colony to appear near the anthill.
Ants use the mycelium of parasol mushroom to feed their larvae and protect their entire colony from parasites and other mushrooms. Mycelium, grown in optimal conditions, is spread across the area by worker ants, which often helps mushrooms proliferate quickly.
Each time you brew coffee or tea, save the dregs/leaves. The best idea is to place them on a baking pan or in ovenware and dry them so that they don’t get mouldy. Put the dried dregs into a jar with a lid.
When the jar becomes full, ‘pasteurize’ the dregs by boiling them for an hour at over 60°C. Leave the lid on, but make sure it isn’t screwed on too tight. Let the jar filled with dregs cool down.
When you buy oyster mushrooms in a grocery shop or at a farmer’s market, search for pink ones, ideally. Cut off any hard stems.
Put the stems in the jar, screw the lid firmly and shake well to mix it up.
Open the jar and leave the lid loose to enable gas exchange (mycelium breathes just like humans – it needs oxygen, and releases carbon dioxide).
Place the jar in a dark place and keep at room temperature, checking from time to time if the contents are moist enough. Watch how the mycelium grows (you should be able to see its parts through the glass).
When the mycelium overgrows the contents of the jar, crush everything into tiny pieces.
Place a straw bundle in a shady spot in your garden. Spread the contents of the jar all over it. Cover it with a layer of straw from another bundle and water it profusely with rainwater.
Wait patiently for the mushrooms to emerge, making sure to occasionally water your bed of mushrooms.
Another mushroom that often visits my garden is commonly cultivated in Asia. It is the sawtooth oak mushroom, also known as shiitake. These mushrooms, which can be cultivated in the garden, are an essential ingredient in ramen. In addition, they contain plenty of vitamin D, so it’s worth drying them and saving them for wintertime.
Lately, there have been many sudden rainstorms with strong winds that cause trees to lose branches (or sometimes even knock them down). I always prefer to turn a problem into a solution, so for me this creates an opportunity to obtain some wood, which is perfect for mushroom cultivation.
Obtain wood logs from a leafy tree (preferred species include oak, maple, ash, elm, hornbeam and beech). They should be around one-metre long and 10-20 centimetres in diameter.
Freshly-cut wood should be left to dry in a cool place for at least three weeks.
Order shiitake mycelium grown on grain or sawdust – mushroom starter packs can be easily bought online.
Using a power drill with a wood drill bit (12-16 millimetres in diameter, it can also be a spade bit), make a few dozen holes in the wood, around 40-milimetres deep and evenly spread out.
Fill the remaining holes with crushed mushroom starter.
Cover each hole with melted bee wax.
Place the wood logs in the garden, arranging them in the following way: on two parallel logs put the next two logs, perpendicularly. Keep these stacks in a fully-shaded and wet place. Remember to water them when the weather is scorching to keep the right moisture level in the wood. Alternatively, you can place the logs on the ground and shower them with a layer of wood chips, which stay moist for a longer period.
Now you just simply need to stay patient: the first mushrooms might emerge after only a few months. It’s worth waiting, though, because after the mycelium colonizes the hard and dense wood, you will enjoy abundant crops for a few years, provided that the wood is kept moist.
I wish you an abundance of mushrooms!
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Mąkowska
Since you read our texts, you know how important the environment is for us. By supporting what we do, you help our reporters access places that we simply cannot live without. We do it the best we can – by writing and taking photos. If you share our concern for the planet, make a donation and support PRZEKRÓJ Foundation.
Choose your donation